Despite the growing possibility of sneaking into the Playoffs, by all measures, this has been a very disappointing season for the New York Knicks. New team prez Phil Jackson think All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony is the one feeling the most pressure. Per the NY Times:
On Thursday, Jackson fielded 17 questions from the news media at the team’s training center, on topics ranging from the playoffs (now a distinct possibility) to the performance of Coach Mike Woodson (“a pro”) to the alleged influence of Creative Artists Agency on the Knicks (none on him). It was an opportunity for Jackson to deliver his first public comments since March 25, when the Knicks opened a five-game trip by being crushed by the Los Angeles Lakers in a performance that Jackson considered “awful.”
Much has changed in the interim, with the Knicks (33-43) — winners of 12 of their last 15 — moving ahead of the Atlanta Hawks (32-42) by percentage points for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Cleveland Cavaliers (31-45) are also in the mix, two games back.
“I feel like they’ve played a lot better against higher-quality teams, or tougher teams, than they have sometimes against also-rans,” he said. “But I think they’re playing with great energy now, and they seem to be playing with purpose. And I appreciate that.”
Jackson cited the improved play of J. R. Smith as a catalyst — Anthony no longer has to handle quite so much of the scoring burden — and echoed Tyson Chandler’s recent comments that the Knicks could cause trouble in the playoffs. At the same time, Jackson said that evaluating personnel in the postseason would be beneficial to him.
Jackson said he had spoken with Anthony on several occasions, not so much about the future but about the season at hand. Jackson described their conversations as a “getting-to-know-you type of thing.” Anthony has said he intends to become a free agent this summer.
“He’s had to carry a big load, and it’s been a tough year for him,” Jackson said. “It’s been a tough year for everyone. But I just think he feels the weight of it a lot more on himself.”